Hypnosis may conjure up images of people being made to quack like a duck onstage, but the reality is that it’s typically much more boring—and sleep-inducing. That’s right, hypnosis may be a helpful tool for some people who are battling a variety of sleep disorders like insomnia or sleepwalking.
For people with insomnia, hypnosis may help to allow both the body and mind to relax and let go of the anxiety that not falling asleep can create. A sleepwalker, on the other hand, could learn through hypnotic suggestion to wake up when his feet hit the floor. Hypnosis may also increase the amount of time that you spend in slow-wave sleep (deep sleep) by as much as 80 percent. That’s key because deep sleep is important for memory and healing so you wake up feeling restored.
Unlike what you may imagine, hypnosis doesn’t happen by watching a swinging pocket watch. It’s usually done by listening to verbal cues from a hypnotherapist that draw you into a trance-like state that could be compared to being so engrossed in a good book that you tune out your surroundings. For example, a session geared toward helping you sleep more deeply would likely involve a soft, soothing voice using words like “relax,” “deep,” “easily,” and “let go.” Afterwards, or even while listening, you might drift off to sleep. While some people describe being hypnotized as feeling extremely relaxed, during hypnotism your brain is actually focused in deep concentration.
Hypnotherapy may work better on certain people. That’s because some people are more “suggestible” than others—that is, they are drawn into a hypnotized state more easily. About a quarter of people, however, simply can’t be hypnotized.
Interested in trying it? People who use hypnosis to help solve sleep problems usually see results within just a few sessions, so you don’t have to make a big commitment. Hypnotherapy isn’t a stand-alone treatment for sleep disorders, but rather another tool to try—and it’s often practiced by doctors, nurses, and psychotherapists. Talk to your doctor about getting a referral.